The California NAACP State Conference and its affiliated branches recently participated with other NAACP chapters nationwide in press conferences lending support to an initiative pushing the bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010. If this new law, which was already passed in the House of Representatives, is passed in the Senate (and obtains the necessary funding), it will enact a review of America’s criminal justice system and present recommendations for reform.

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010 establishes the National Criminal Justice Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of all areas of the criminal justice system including federal, state, local, and tribal governments; as well as criminal justice costs, practices, and policies.

There has not been a such comprehensive review since the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration and Justice was established in 1965. The proposed legislation directs the commission to:
(1) make findings regarding its review and recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice;

(2) conduct public hearings in various locations around the United States;

(3) consult with federal, state, local, and tribal government and nongovernmental leaders and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and

(4) submit a final report to Congress, the president, and state, local, and tribal governments, within 18 months of its formation, and make such report available to the public. Expresses the sense of Congress that the commission should work toward unanimously supported findings and recommendations. Sets forth the membership composition of the commission and its administrative provisions. Exempts the commission from the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Requires all records and papers of the commission to be deposited into the National Archives. Terminates the commission 60 days after it submits its final report to Congress.

The commission will be made up of 14 members: Two members, who will serve as co-chairs, will be appointed by the president; the Senate majority leader, minority leader, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the House minority leader will each all also appoint two members; and four members, who are state and local representatives, will be appointed by the president.

The NAACP also unveiled a national billboard blitz outlining the statistics on the over-incarceration of Blacks, and in support of this new commission.

The Civil Rights organization is concentrating on these issues because statistics show:
* The United States has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

* In the past 20 years, California’s spending on prisons has risen 20 times faster than on higher education.

The NAACP believes California’s investment in over-incarceration has limited the state’s ability to support education, and notes that the community is being negatively impacted by misplaced priorities.